Celebrating 175

January 15: Gilbert Rodman (1862)

Gilbert Rodman was already a lawyer when he relocated to Washington from his native Pennsylvania in 1829. He had received an appointment as a clerk in the Treasury Department from the new Secretary of the Treasury, Samuel Ingham, a fellow Pennsylvanian. Rodman quickly rose through the ranks of the department to become chief clerk, or primary assistant to the Secretary, serving until his death. Rodman occasionally acted as Solicitor of the Treasury and Secretary of the Treasury during the absences of the primary office holders.

Gilbert Rodman was associated with Epiphany from its beginning, serving faithfully as its treasurer from 1842 until his death twenty years later. In 1858 Rodman was baptized and confirmed at Epiphany. When Gilbert Rodman died in 1862, Epiphany’s vestry paid tribute to “his blameless integrity, the purity of his life, and the good nature and affability which won him affectionate respect of old and young. He had a tear for pity and a hand open as day to melting charity.”

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January 13: William Jason Gold+ (1903)

The Rev. William Jason Gold was a priest, theologian, liturgist, and seminary professor in the Episcopal Church. Following his father’s death, Gold’s mother remarried which resulted in additional children. It was two month’s after his step-sibling’s baptisms at Epiphany, that Gold himself was baptized at Epiphany as a young adult. His mother and stepfather stood as his sponsors. It’s hard to know the spiritual awakening that had occurred within him that lead from his baptism at age 18 to his ordination to the priesthood ten years later. Gold’s career included some parish ministry, but was mostly as a seminary professor.

In his annual report for the year 1903, the bishop of Chicago stated that he had read the burial office for the Rev. William J. Gold, D.D., instructor in the Western Theological Seminary, “whose death was a severe loss to the institution and to the Church at large. His place cannot be filled.” Gold was a deputy from the Diocese of Chicago to five General Conventions of the Episcopal Church, including the one in 1898 held in Washington at the Church of the Epiphany, where Gold had been baptized 35 years earlier.

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January 14: John Van Rensselaer Hoff (1920)

The interior walls of many historic Episcopal churches are laden with memorial plaques. Somewhere along the line at Epiphany, it was determined to refrain from such displays. There are two exceptions though and one is on the east nave wall – “In Blessed Memory of John Van Rensselaer Hoff.” Colonel Hoff spent a lifetime caring for others. Like his father before him, Hoff became a military surgeon. Both were trailblazers – his father planned the medical details of the first American purpose-built hospital ship and he was a recognized pioneer in Army field medicine.

Colonel Hoff founded the Army Hospital Corps in 1898, served as Deputy Surgeon General of the Army, returned for service during World War I and was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for service at Wounded Knee. After retirement from the Army, Hoff spent the last years of his life in Washington, where he served on the vestry at Epiphany. The plaque in Hoff’s memory concludes, “His life was devoted to the service of God, his country, and humanity. A Good Soldier of Jesus Christ.”

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January 12: Willie Bernice Daughtry Hobgood (2007)

There was an inner light that shone through Willie Hobgood. The youngest of seven children, she was known as the “bookworm” in her family. Through reading and coursework she was always seeking to advance herself. Her jobs in Washington included stints at the Civil Service Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, and the State Department. In the newly established Office of Equal Employment Opportunity, she mentored many African-American employees, several of whom became U.S. ambassadors.

Willie Hobgood had a strong relationship with Jesus Christ.  She spent time each day reading the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. Like someone devouring the pages of an intriguing novel, she put checkmarks beside favorite passages and used napkin pieces as paper in writing down her favorite Biblical chapters and verses. She attended church regularly, especially at Epiphany where she was faithfully present at the weekday 12:10 Eucharist.  One of her favorite pieces of advice for youth, “Go to church faithfully.  Make the week’s first steps the church steps.” The hope, strength, and solace that Willie gained from inside Epiphany’s red doors clearly shone through in a life well lived.

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January 11: Francis Scott Key (1843)

Francis Scott Key is familiar to many as the Georgetown lawyer who witnessed the bombardment of Ft. McHenry during the War of 1812 and was so inspired to see the American flag still flying after a British bombardment that he penned the words that became America’s national anthem. What is perhaps not so familiar is that Key was a devout and prominent Episcopalian. In his youth, he almost became an Episcopal priest rather than a lawyer. Throughout his life he sprinkled biblical references in his correspondence. Though active in churches in Frederick, Maryland and Georgetown, he also helped found or financially support several parishes in the new national capital. Key also helped found two Episcopal seminaries, one in Baltimore and the other in Alexandria (Virginia Theological Seminary).

Key’s name appears in Epiphany’s early records. The following is from the minutes of the April 2, 1842 meeting of the Trustees of the Mission Church of the Epiphany:

A motion was made and carried, for the appointment of Committees of two persons each to solicit subscriptions for the support of the Pastor and to defray the expenses of the Mission Church, and at the same time to solicit subscriptions of money toward the erection of a Church edifice. Whereupon the following named persons were appointed on said Committees to wit: [assignments to various portions of the city]….and Wm. M. Morrison, F.S. Key and Jas. Moss to act East of 8th Street.

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January 10: William Moody Morrison

William M. Morrison was a native of New Hampshire, the ninth of fourteen children. He moved to Alexandria, Virginia at an early age, where he became a teacher. Here he met and married his wife, Louisa Berry, with whom he had nine children. After teaching for a while, Morrison started in the book business and operated the leading bookstore in Alexandria for several years. He published the principal textbooks used at the nearby Virginia Theological Seminary.

Morrison relocated to Washington about 1837 with the same occupation and took into partnership his son and nephew under the firm name of “W.M. Morrison & Co.” His business establishment at 475 Pennsylvania Ave NW was considered one of the finest in the nation’s capital, an iron-front three-story building, 157 by 23 feet, and wholly occupied by them. The company supplied some of the books for the new White House Library, created during the Fillmore Administration. William Morrison was associated with Epiphany from its inception. He was elected as one of the parish’s first wardens. Morrison’s last child Emma was baptized at Epiphany shortly after her birth on Christmas Day 1843.

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January 9 – Dedication of Dormer Windows Stained Glass (1979)

High above the hammer beam rafters of Epiphany’s interior are six dormer windows that came into being with the 1874 renovation of the church, which replaced a flat ceiling with a “more churchly roof.” The major purposes of the windows were light and ventilation. A century later with electricity and air conditioning in place, it was decided to replace these clear windows with stained glass. The windows were designed as a group to interpret the story of creation as told in the book of Genesis. Each window has its own symbol of the Creator God in the circle at the top and the panels below interpret a specific day of creation.

All six windows are the design of Rodney Winfield of St. Louis, Missouri. Mr. Winfield is probably best known as the artist of the “space window” at Washington National Cathedral, which contains a piece of moon rock brought back by Apollo 11 astronauts. The creation windows are all memorials and were dedicated at the morning service on January 7, 1979, the First Sunday after the Epiphany. Depicted here is the window depicting the fifth day of creation when God created the birds of the air and the fish of the sea.

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January 8 – John Huntington Crane Coffin (1890)

A native of Maine, John Coffin (and his twin sister Sarah) grew up in a very religious, loving, and social family. At Bowdoin College, John Coffin excelled in mathematics. He graduated in 1834 and fifty years later would be awarded an honorary LL.D. degree by the same institution. A classmate of Coffin’s described him “as of singularly sweet disposition – affable, gentle, and of fine grain. There was a rare union in him of goodness and genius.” As with many of his ancestors, Coffin heard the call of the sea and this translated into a lifelong career in the U.S. Navy. In addition to serving at sea, he also performed land duties at the U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Naval Observatory. His expertise was in navigation and astronomy. He was a charter member of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington.

During an assignment in Washington in the early 1840’s, John Coffin made the acquaintance of Louisa Harrison. Their marriage at the Church of the Epiphany was the first wedding in the new church. Earlier, Louisa had given the church the two lots of land on G Street as the site for the new building. Most of the Coffin’s six children were baptized and confirmed at Epiphany. John served on the vestry for several decades and was the treasurer from 1869 until his death on January 8, 1890. Professor Coffin had lived through seven Epiphany rectors and had witnessed the church’s growth from a small mission congregation to a prominent religious institution in the nation’s capital.

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January 7 – Garnell Stuart Copeland (1977)

Garnell Copeland was 13 years old when he startled San Francisco’s virtuoso organist Newton Pashley by repeating from memory the Bach toccata that Pashley had just played. Copeland was 26 when he became Epiphany’s organist and choirmaster. Copeland was just 34 when he died in an ambulance after being attacked by three assailants on the steps of his Capitol Hill home. His attackers were never identified. The night of his death, Copeland was returning from the evening service of the Feast of Lights. Six weeks later, a memorial concert at the Kennedy Center drew 2000 friends and admirers.

In 1968, Copeland gave the dedicatory recital on Epiphany’s new Aeolian-Skinner organ. One of the pieces on the program was his mentor Leo Sowerby’s work, “Pageant.” The elderly Sowerby, in the waning months of his life, came to hear the young prodigy play. Ten years later, Epiphany dedicated in Copeland’s name two particularly fitting memorials. One was a horizontal rank of 49 pipes, for the organ Copeland helped design. The other was one of the new creation-themed stained glass windows incorporating the notation from the Copeland/Romig hymn “Epiphany.” The inspiration was from the Old Testament Book of Job where it states that at creation, “the morning stars sang together.”

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January 6 – Founding Meeting (1842)

A meeting called to discuss local missionary work was held in the basement of Trinity Church (3rd & C Streets, NW; no longer in existence) on December 15, 1841. It was sponsored by the diocesan Domestic Committee of Church Missions with active support principally from Washington’s Trinity and St. John’s Churches. At this meeting “it was deemed expedient to commence action through a mission church.”

When those attending employed the Rev. John W. French as City Missionary, they charged him with making an extended survey of the city, to discover all those who might be brought into the Episcopal fold or, as French put it, “to find everyone shut from the means of grace.”

Three weeks later on January 6, 1842, the Feast of the Epiphany, a group of about thirty individuals gathered at the home of Mrs. Sarah Easton (19th and I Streets, NW) and agreed to found a new congregation that would become known as the Church of the Epiphany.

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